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Definition of Evangelical

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  • Rushing Jaws
    replied
    Originally posted by mikewhitney View Post
    Would most evangelicals hold to the definition that 'evangelicalism' has its foundational meaning as "people who hold to, at minimal, some of the ancient Christian confessions?"

    (I am fine including 'mainstream' Christian groups who also adhere to some of the ancient Christian confessions. I was sort of focused on the term 'evangelical' here. )

    I might moderate the definition by noting that such evangelicals may be consciously aware of the connection of their faith with the confessions. (If someone has an improved definition of evangelical, that would be helpful.)

    If I end up having to define those who are Christians, I would tend to speak of confessional Christianity -- those holding to, at minimal, the Apostles' Creed.

    I suppose we could also ask what makes Christians also evangelical.
    I would say that:

    • an Evangelical with a capital E is a Protestant Christian
    • and Evangelical piety (in the broadest sense) is Christ-centred & Bible-centred


    Other Christians use and venerate the Bible - what distinguishes its place in Evangelicalism, is the functional load it carries. In Evangelicalism, it colours and irradiates everything. The very great veneration of Evangelicals for the Bible has an analogy in Catholic & Orthodox veneration of the BVM, in this sense: the two objects of veneration serve as the supreme created symbols of what is holy, short of God Himself. Both the Bible & the BVM can legitimately be called holy; but some epithets are incommunicable: neither can be called uncreated or eternal, for instance.

    More catholic types of Christianity - much of Anglicanism; Catholicism; Orthodoxy, and others - emphasise the function of the Church. Not that much of Evangelicalism does not - the “magisterial” wing of the Reformation had a very strong sense of the Church; it was most certainly a Churchly movement. But the Church has, in catholic types of Christianity, a very great functional load, that it does not have in Protestantism, and does not have in Evangelicalism. In Catholicism at least, the boundaries of the Church’s life are the boundaries within which the Christian believer lives the life of faith; for Evangelicalism, the boundaries of the life of faith in Christ are the boundaries of the Bible. Both sets of boundaries are rescued from fossilisation and deathliness by the vivifying and enlightening grace of the Spirit of God.

    Furthermore, in Catholicism and Orthodoxy (at least) the Church is the guarantor (under God) of the authenticity of the Christian tradition in that Church. This is one of the reasons that form of Christianity professes to be Apostolic.
    In Evangelicalism OTOH, the Christian tradition, as expressed canonically and for all time to come, in Scripture alone, is the guarantor (under God) of the authenticity of the Church, which is more or less Christianly authentic according as it agrees or disagrees with Scripture.

    Evangelicalism is often reproached as having no care for, and little interest in, the Christian tradition. To a great extent, I think that objection can be met by saying that the dynamic activity of the Holy Spirit speaking to the Churches through the Bible is the tradition of Evangelicalism. Without the dynamism of the Holy Spirit in the Church, the Apostolicity of the catholic Churches would be a deadening and deadly weight; it is the Spirit of God Who makes it live and fruitful in good.
    And while some forms of Evangelical Churchmanship seem to have little interest in the Christian past, that cannot be said of all forms of Evangelicalism.

    Catholic forms of Christianity are sacramental, and emphasise a principle of mediation by creatures. Evangelicalism is not sacrament-minded, and is decidedly opposed to the very principle of mediation by creatures. For Evangelicalism, the totality of mediation is an activity of the Ascended & Glorified Christ alone, so as to be incommunicable to creatures. Less theologically, the notion of mediation by creatures is seen as illegitimate first and foremost because of what Scripture says in 1 Tim. 2.5; and also because mediation by creatures is seen as a sinful human intrusion by man between the believer and his Saviour. This is one of the reasons for Evangelical dislike of what has often been called “priestcraft”.

    I think what defines evangelicalism as a religious form is that it is self-consciously Gospel-centred, Christ-centred, and Bible-centred. It seeks inward Christian authenticity, rather than beautiful externals. Sometimes this comparative disregard for beautiful externals has gone hand in hand with Christian vandalism; more often, it is expressed in a concern for “godly order” in a manner of Christian worship that may be plain, but is decorous and austere and disciplined.

    Furthermore, I think evangelicalism is marked by earnestness - the evangelical takes God seriously, not with an attitude of trifling, irreverence, flippancy, or scepticism. This earnestness is what gives the error of legalism its power, and can lead to an unChristian joylessness & dourness, often miscalled Puritanism. The evangelical takes God as being in earnest, as meaning what the Bible shows Him saying. The evangelical attitude is therefore a powerful motive for Christian obedience.

    IMHO, who is a Christian can be defined only by God. There are external “tests”, of course, such as whether someone professes belief in Christ as Saviour & Lord; but such tests are

    (a) external
    (b) not a perfect index of God’s attitude to that person
    (c) emphasise man’s POV instead of God’s
    (d) liable to be mistaken, even by the professor of the belief

    IMO, the answer to the question lies entirely within God’s “Subjectivity”, & is therefore inaccessible to man on Earth. That one belongs to Christ as one of His sheep, is IMO something that can be held only by faith in Him. Our hearts can and do condemn and deceive us, so we cannot trust them. So self-analysis, though not useless, cannot, ISTM, tell us whether we are His sheep.

    Leave a comment:


  • mikewhitney
    replied
    Originally posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Well, I'm not willing to say he's damned either, not that I know much about him, but I don't think it's a case of the Apostles' Creed misinterpreting Scripture, but of Grudem misinterpreting the Apostles' Creed. The word hell in the Apostles' Creed refers not to the final place of judgement for the wicked, but to the resting place of the dead awaiting the final judgement. I.e it refers to hades/sheol, and not to "the lake of fire".

    In Swedish we don't use the word "hell" (or "helvetet" as we would say) when reciting the creed, instead we use the word "dödsriket" (translates approximately to "land of the dead") and is used to translate both the Hebrew sheol and the Greek hades.
    I was trying to say that. Thanks for translating my point into English.

    Leave a comment:


  • JonathanL
    replied
    Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
    Wayne Grudem disagrees with part of point 4; he argues the part about descending into hell is a misinterpretation of Scripture. I'm not willing to say he's damned.

    Obviously many Orthodox and Catholic will take issue with how Protestants interpret point 9 too.
    Well, I'm not willing to say he's damned either, not that I know much about him, but I don't think it's a case of the Apostles' Creed misinterpreting Scripture, but of Grudem misinterpreting the Apostles' Creed. The word hell in the Apostles' Creed refers not to the final place of judgement for the wicked, but to the resting place of the dead awaiting the final judgement. I.e it refers to hades/sheol, and not to "the lake of fire".

    In Swedish we don't use the word "hell" (or "helvetet" as we would say) when reciting the creed, instead we use the word "dödsriket" (translates approximately to "land of the dead") and is used to translate both the Hebrew sheol and the Greek hades.

    Leave a comment:


  • JonathanL
    replied
    Originally posted by NorrinRadd View Post
    Um... Well... I think the ELCA -- EVANGELICAL Lutheran Church in America -- is one of the more liberal synods.
    The ELCA is neither EVANGELICAL, nor LUTHERAN

    Leave a comment:


  • mikewhitney
    replied
    Originally posted by NorrinRadd View Post
    I would say "disdain" or "be suspicious of" would describe the attitudes of the Evangelical and Full Gospel churches I've attended.
    Is this due to a general distrust of tradition? I would suspect the issue being this general distrust. The effect then would be to throw out the good with the bad.

    The other possibility is like CP said ... about going directly to scripture. Maybe the creeds make the church message seem less dynamic, even if still accurate?

    Are you generally okay with the (modernized) meaning of the Apostle's Creed? Is this creed close enough for use as a summary of truths about Jesus?

    Note: I do remember a new believer switching over to Reformed Presbyterian. At that time it seemed that he was getting focused on intellectual pursuit rather than New Testament Christianity. Now I would say we need both. (This is a quick way of describing things -- and probably not the best way.)
    Last edited by mikewhitney; 09-30-2019, 08:02 PM.

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  • mikewhitney
    replied
    Originally posted by NorrinRadd View Post
    Um... Well... I think the ELCA -- EVANGELICAL Lutheran Church in America -- is one of the more liberal synods.
    I haven't checked if the individual ELCA locations use 'evangelical' in their names. I'm not sure how many non-ELCA Lutherans are seeking churches with 'Evangelical' in the name anyhow.

    Leave a comment:


  • mikewhitney
    replied
    Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    The problem Orthodox Christians have with the Apostle's Creed is that it is insufficiently narrow; an Arian, for example, would have no qualms about reciting it.
    Is the Apostle's Creed okay for truths that it states even if it falls short of having such refinements?

    Leave a comment:


  • NorrinRadd
    replied
    Originally posted by mikewhitney View Post
    the marketing stuff is reserved for the WOF preachers
    Hah! You should have seen the book table at my ex-girlfriend's C&MA church.

    (Of course, one could make a case that CMA founder A.B. Simpson was more of a hardcore "faith" guy than most WOFites, and that WOF-daddy Hagin got one of his "best" teachings from a CMA guy... but that's another topic.)

    Leave a comment:


  • NorrinRadd
    replied
    Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
    I think "disdain" might be too strong a word. While I find them unnecessary, I certainly don't "disdain" them.
    I would say "disdain" or "be suspicious of" would describe the attitudes of the Evangelical and Full Gospel churches I've attended.

    Leave a comment:


  • NorrinRadd
    replied
    Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
    On a personal level, that makes little sense to me because one could say the same thing about the hymns they sing.
    Only briefly in the '80s did I belong to a church that sang "hymns" in the common sense of the term. The vast majority of my Christian experience has featured "contemporary" worship. Of course that too is a "tradition," but more of a "non-traditional tradition."

    Leave a comment:


  • NorrinRadd
    replied
    Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    Evangelicals tend to disdain creeds as empty formulas, and prefer to rely on scripture alone. Creeds are a "tradition of men" and thus avoided, even if the content of a particular creed is not objectionable.
    Yep. The only traditions we like are the ones we ourselves invent.

    Leave a comment:


  • NorrinRadd
    replied
    Originally posted by mikewhitney View Post
    Your observation is relevant. Church groups don't have to call themselves 'evangelical', but the use of the term would tell prospective members of the distinction from liberal churches.
    Um... Well... I think the ELCA -- EVANGELICAL Lutheran Church in America -- is one of the more liberal synods.

    Leave a comment:


  • mikewhitney
    replied
    I am reminded of some of the 'weaknesses' of the creeds and confessions. But I hadn't thought of some changes of interpretation that were needed as the visible church had more doctrinal divisions. The Apostle's Creed was defined when there were fewer distinctions of groups. The Apostle's Creed then appears to be inaccurately used in confessions done today. If people still use the confessions, it may help to identify how the meaning of the confession has been adjusted due to changes within Christianity.


    I still have a concern. Seminaries can be aided by requiring confessions. At minimal, the professors who confess these on entry can possibly be removed from their positions if they show themselves disagreeing with the creeds. But there is a problem if the creeds have limitations, as we have just seen in this discussion.

    There also is a problem if some points of the creeds and confessions need revision in light of closer inspection of scripture. It seems difficult to handle a reasonable change in the confessions based on such closer inspection.

    Maybe these issues have played into the decisions of some groups to avoid the creeds and confessions.
    Last edited by mikewhitney; 09-30-2019, 06:13 PM.

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  • Cow Poke
    replied
    Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    Ok. It's not especially easy to categorize Evangelicals, because other than a focus on spreading the gospel, they're defined more by what they are not, and have no organizational unity.
    That kinda reminds me of the old 'definition' of Christian as "I don't smoke and I don't chew, and I don't run with those who do".

    It seems "Christian" was defined more by what they DON'T do than by what they do. "Oh, I don't smoke - I'm a Christian!"

    Leave a comment:


  • mikewhitney
    replied
    Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
    Wayne Grudem disagrees with part of point 4; he argues the part about descending into hell is a misinterpretation of Scripture. I'm not willing to say he's damned.

    Obviously many Orthodox and Catholic will take issue with how Protestants interpret point 9 too.
    I don't think that the phrasing of the 'hell' passage was an issue in dispute. So the meaning of this phrase may have unresolved ambiguity -- sort of like a Supreme Court decision when covering a topic that wasn't part of the dispute.

    Subsequent creeds and confessions, of course, were designed to clarify points of earlier statements of faith that had too much wiggle room.

    Leave a comment:

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